We have all heard of the everyday flu many individuals are vaccinated against annually, especially children and the elderly. However, few have heard of something as unique as the keto flu.
What is the keto flu and how does it occur in an average individual?
The keto flu is actually a number of symptoms similar to the regular flu that occur in some individuals when they start the ketogenic diet. Below, we discuss exactly what the keto diet is and the causes and risk factors of the keto flu.
This article also delves into the flu-like symptoms some individuals who start the keto diet can encounter, as well as its treatments and how to prevent the keto flu from occurring.
Overview of the Keto Diet
The ketogenic diet is a high-fat and low-carb diet meant to improve an individual’s health and help them lose weight. There are a variety of medical conditions the ketogenic diet can help prevent such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and epilepsy.
By drastically decreasing one’s carbohydrate intake and replacing it with more fat and protein (though a lesser amount than fat), the body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis.
There are specific foods someone on the ketogenic diet will need to avoid, including sugar-filled foods such as cake, grains or starches such as rice and pasta, fruit, beans, root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, and alcohol.
The type of foods the keto diet is based on include meat such as chicken, turkey, or beef, bacon, fatty fish such as salmon or trout, eggs, butter, unprocessed cheese, healthy oils, and avocados.
Causes and Risk Factors of the Keto Flu
Adapting to a new diet with little carbohydrates makes the body burn ketones instead of glucose for energy. It is vital to consider, however, how the drastic reduction of carbohydrates and the immediate burning of fat for energy could force an individual’s body into a state of shock.
An individual’s body may go into a withdrawal-like state where it may experience the same symptoms as when an individual is dealing with an illness such as the typical flu or a cold.
Typically, the cause of the ketogenic flu includes carbohydrate withdrawal or an immunological reaction. It may even be due to the typical changes in the gut microbiome after taking part in a new diet.
Immediately removing carbohydrates from one’s diet, losing too many electrolytes, and becoming very dehydrated all increase the risk.
The Symptoms of the Keto Flu
As the body begins adapting to the ketogenic diet and lifestyle, the transition to low-carb intake can be rather complicated and feel difficult to undertake. As many as twenty-five percent of individuals on the keto diet can display flu-like symptoms, which may occur within days after starting the new eating pattern.
The symptoms vary among every individual with some experiencing severe symptoms while others feeling mild side effects.
The common symptoms individuals may feel include headaches, weakness, irritability, constipation, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, cramps, trouble sleeping, sore muscles, and trouble concentrating. Luckily, these symptoms typically only last only about one week.
Treating the Keto Flu
While the keto flu can make individuals feel terrible, there are straightforward ways to improve the symptoms. Everyone will be able to move forward with the ketogenic diet more easily if they partake in the following suggestions.
Glycogen is a stored type of carbohydrate that can bind itself to water molecules in the human body. When individuals give up carbohydrates and begin the keto diet, water is removed more quickly from their body.
Unfortunately, many do not realize this can result in the keto flu. When treating the keto flu, individuals will need to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. This will reduce fatigue and stop muscle cramps.
Individuals with the keto flu will also need to replace electrolytes because this diet restricts foods high in potassium. Adding salt to food and eating green, leafy vegetables as well as avocados can help boost an individual’s electrolyte intake.
In addition, individuals with the keto flu will want to get plenty of sleep to avoid the fatigue and give their body as much energy to fight their symptoms as possible.
Preventing the Ketogenic Flu
Preventing the keto flu includes a variety of steps such as making sure to eat enough fats. Transitioning to a new diet could lead individuals to crave foods such as bread, cookies, or pasta, and taking in more fats will help with these cravings and make sure individuals feel full.
However, this is not the best way to ensure the keto flu does not appear. Individuals can greatly reduce their risk of developing this condition if they slowly transition to following the ketogenic diet.
Slowly cutting back on carbohydrates and introducing more fats into one’s diet such as avocados or salmon will help individuals prevent the symptoms of the keto flu and ensure the transition is simpler as their body will be less likely to go into shock or withdrawal.
Remember, drinking more water is also important! These steps can go a long way toward ensuring the transition to the keto diet goes smoothly.